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Statement by Campaign against Euro-federalism 5 February 2009

The right to work and the EU Single Market

Lindsey dispute -
local and foreign workers

Lindsey workers

The use of foreign workers in Britain stems from the Single European Market defined as the “free movement of capital, goods, services and labour”.  This is backed by several recent EU Directives and EU Court of Justice judgements which attack trade union rights on collective bargaining, the right to strike and pay. The Single Market has created a pool of labour to be used at the beck and call of employers at the lowest wages and conditions they can impose. This has created a “race to the bottom”. This combination of a general EU policy, legislation and judgements override Britain’s laws.

The foretaste of the Lindsey oil refinery strike can be found in the Irish Ferries dispute and Gate Gourmet strike where seamen and workers were imported like commodities at lower rates of pay and worse conditions. In Sweden construction workers from Latvia on a school were imported by a Latvian firm at substantially lower rates of pay. Viking Ferries re-flagged a Finnish ferry to Estonia to put in place lower pay and conditions. The latter two tasters went to the European Court of Justice which decreed that collective agreements could not stand as they offended the free movement of labour in the Single Market.

   The objections and strike action by workers at Lindsey supported by workers around Britain is not about the rate of pay, is not against workers from other countries and is not racist or xenophobic. It is simply about the fundamental right to work. This fundamental right is not given in EU policies, Directives or EU Court judgements.

It is an environmental and economic nonsense with social and human problems that workers from Italy, Portugal, Latvia and elsewhere are transported to Britain to carry out jobs which local workers are perfectly able and willing to perform.It is also innocuous that well shod Government ministers are advising workers in Britain to get on an airplane and find work elsewhere in the EU.

    The settlement agreed unanimously by the Lindsey workers to end the strike does not alter the basic principle which caused the dispute in the first place - the unfettered free movement of labour within the EU. That can be resolved by the government and Parliament repealing the relevant EU legislation that has been imposed upon Britain and rubber stamped by MPs.

What must and can be done?